BUFFALO, N.Y. — Under the bright lights, the Broncos will aim to secure another critical victory.
Denver (3-5) enters a "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Bills (5-4) with a chance to earn a third consecutive victory and launch itself right back into postseason contention.
"It's the only show in town on Monday night," tackle Mike McGlinchey said ahead of the game. "The whole league will be watching. If you can sneak out a win and play our football up there, I think all of a sudden people look at the Broncos a little bit differently."
As the Broncos look to earn their first road prime-time win since 2020 and their first "Monday Night Football" victory since 2017, they understand the challenge that awaits in a team with Buffalo's pedigree. And yet, they also understand that beating teams like the Bills is exactly what's necessary if they hope to change the fortune of their season.
"If we want to get to where we want to get to, we've got to go through teams like Buffalo," safety Justin Simmons said. "It's going to be a fun one."
As Denver looks to earn its third consecutive win, here's a look at a question for the Broncos to answer, a matchup to watch and a stat to know.
ONE BIG QUESTION:
Can Denver's defense continue its momentum vs. Josh Allen and Buffalo's offense?
The Broncos' defense has flipped the script in recent weeks, as Denver has allowed just 15 points and 331 yards per game over the last three games after struggling to start the season. Only Baltimore has allowed fewer points since Week 6, as the Broncos' defense has found success during a stretch that included a pair of games against Kansas City. The Broncos have been particularly strong in the red zone, as they've posted the second-lowest red-zone touchdown percentage over the last three games. From Weeks 1-5, the Broncos allowed touchdowns on 40 percent of opposing drives, which was the highest rate in the NFL; over their last three games, the Broncos have allowed touchdowns on just 10 percent of opposing drives. Denver's recent standard is the lowest touchdown rate during that stretch, according to Pro Football Focus.
Denver faces another tough challenge in Buffalo. The Bills rank fifth in scoring offense, and Josh Allen leads the NFL with 24 touchdowns. The Wyoming product ranks tied for second in passing touchdowns, and he's added another six scores with his legs. A dangerous player, Allen has been particularly efficient after a loss; his .808 win percentage in games following a loss is the best of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era.
Allen, however, has also turned the ball over at a high rate in 2023. Entering Week 10, his nine interceptions were tied for most in the league, and he's thrown an interception in five consecutive games. That stretch is the longest of his career, and only Atlanta's Desmond Ridder has more giveaways than Allen's 11 this season. The Broncos, meanwhile, have recorded an interception in five consecutive games, which is tied for the second-longest active streak in the NFL.
In a prime-time opportunity, the Broncos' defense will look to make a statement — and there's precedent to suggest the unit could find success. In five exclusive window games this season — four prime-time games and a London game — the Bills have gone 2-3 while scoring 18.4 points per game and posting a minus-8 turnover margin. For comparison, the Bills have notched a 3-1 record while scoring 37 points per game and recording a plus-8 turnover margin in the 1 p.m. ET window.
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
CB Pat Surtain II vs. WR Stefon Diggs
The Broncos' All-Pro cornerback will face one of the bigger challenges of his young career as he matches up with three-time Pro Bowler Stefon Diggs. The veteran player leads the NFL in receptions with 70 catches through nine games and has posted the second-most receiving touchdowns prior to Sunday. His 834 receiving yards rank third in the league, and he has posted at least six receptions and 50 receiving yards in every game this season, which makes him the only player in the league to meet those totals in each game. Diggs has been particularly good in prime time, as he leads the NFL with 134 receptions and 1,644 receiving yards in prime-time games since he joined the Bills in 2020 — and his 14 touchdowns are second to only Travis Kelce in prime-time contests.
Diggs caught a 17-yard touchdown last week against the Bengals, and he thrives in those downfield scenarios. He has 27 catches, 538 receiving yards and seven touchdowns this season on throws of at least 10 air yards; all three of those totals rank in the top three in the league. Surtain and Denver, though, have made strides in recent weeks against opponents' deep passing attacks. After allowing five touchdowns and an NFL-worst 147.6 passer rating while picking off just one pass on downfield throws from Weeks 1-4, the Broncos have allowed one touchdown and a 43.2 passer rating while picking off five passes since Week 5.
Surtain, in particular, has continued his strong play. He leads the Broncos with eight passes defensed, and he's one of 10 NFL defenders to have played every snap this season. According to Next Gen Stats, 32.5 percent of throws with Surtain as the nearest defender are considered tight-window throws, which is the fourth-highest rate in the league among defenders with at least 30 targets.
If Surtain can limit Diggs and disrupt Buffalo's downfield passing attack, the Broncos' chances of earning a prime-time win should greatly increase.
STAT TO KNOW:
Payton has faced Bills head coach Sean McDermott-coached teams 13 times in his career, and he's compiled a 7-6 record during those matchups as either a head coach or coordinator. Payton held a 5-5 record against McDermott when Payton led the Saints and McDermott guided the Panthers' defense, and he is 1-1 against McDermott when they've both held head-coaching roles. Though Payton holds just a slight edge in the series, his offenses have found success in those matchups. Payton's units have averaged 29.2 points and nearly 400 yards per game against McDermott-led defenses and converted 46.8 of their third-down attempts.
"I've always respected him," Payton said of McDermott on Thursday. "I think he's a heck of a coach and a guy that I think a lot of. Things change and there's a little spin. There are some things that are a little different [defensively], but he's done a really good job there."